Category Archives: Personal

Nostalgia

I made a small trip over to tonyandpaige.com and found his post from September. He had started blogging 20 years ago. Tony created this blog for me in 2016 so I have a few years to go to catch up. There are a total of 1265 posts published here so apparently I have had quite a bit to say. There were only a couple of posts here in 2017 and I imagine that was partly due to social media. I am still on Facebook though I have managed for the most part to withdraw from anything political. For a time I would click on Facebook in the morning and immediately became depressed or have my blood pressure go up but I have found that if I stick to posting or sharing things I think are positive and just scroll on by the things that were making me crazy, I am far better off. Mostly I look for pictures of my grandchildren who of course, are the most perfect and beautiful babies in the world!

I’m in the process of cleaning up the blog. As I go through past posts it’s funny how things have evolved as far as my interests. I started out with a lot of technology and education posts and then went through my years of writing poetry and short stories. Hopefully now that I am retired, I can revive some of that.

Since I have retired I have become a lay speaker at two Methodist churches on the first Sunday of the month. Now my posts for the most part, are either my bible study notes or my talk for church.

When I was writing I was in several poetry groups and had a lot of traffic (or at least it seemed like a lot for me) but these days I doubt hardly anyone reads but it serves as a place for me to document my journey with Christ and to hopefully see growth in my walk.

So thank you, Tony. I have never said that enough. I couldn’t leave comments on your blog so this will have to do. It was because of you I became a district tech which certainly affected my um…quality of life in retirement. Things were never the same after you left but I learned so much from you. I missed your kindness and integrity but I am glad you made the move for you and your family.

This has been a place of therapy for me, a creative outlet, a place of learning, and a place where I have made some friends that I have never met but stay in communication with so it shrank the world for me. It was a way for me to let friends know what was happening when Dale was so ill and kept me connected to the world when we were isolated for months in the hospital. I started here when I was 51 and now I am 65 and still writing. I’m kind of okay with that.

Questions Jesus Asked 3 Matthew 6:25-34

Scripture Matthew 6:25-34
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  

Context Matthew 6 is the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. This chapter contains the middle portion of the Sermon on the Mount, including the Lord’s Prayer. Verses 19–34 deal with the necessity of a pure intention in all things, unmixed either with the desire of riches, or worldly care, and fear of want (wikipedia)  

Cross Reference Gospels (and I added from NT) Luke 12:22-34
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  

Old Testament Reference Proverbs 12:25
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.
Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Jeremiah 17:7-8
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Psalm 37:8
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
Deuteronomy 31:8
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Quotes, Commentary “If you want string and brown paper, you need not go into a shop to buy them, but if you buy certain articles, you get string and brown paper in the bargain. So, when you go to God, seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness, these other things, which are but the packing, as it were, the string and the brown paper, are given to you in the bargain. He who giveth you the golden treasures of heaven will not allow you to want for the copper treasures of earth.” Spurgeon

When Jesus spoke about grass being “thrown into the fire,” that was reference to a common frugality among ancient Israelites. Unlike today, cut grass was a useful source of fuel for many homes. People would cut the green grass of spring, let it dry, then wrap it into bundles (kind of like little logs). They’d burn those bundles in fire ovens for cooking and heating.


Scot Mcknight quote: “These are words for radicals about a radical lifestyle of trusting God for the ordinaries of life while devoting oneself unreservedly toward the kingdom mission.” and Jesus isn’t encouraging his disciples to be reckless. Instead, he’s calling them to follow him and to see that following him, or (in our text) seeking first the kingdom and righteousness, reshapes what we value most.

Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of anxiety. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
Corrie ten Boom  

Observations, Misc. This passage contrasts worship of things and worship of God.  

Other There is a rumor on the internet that says Do not fear is said 365 times in the bible but after doing some research, I found this not to be true.
Question: Is worry a sin?  

Prayer Father when the world takes my eyes and my mind and my heart and points them at things I seemingly can do nothing about, I ask that you either provide me with the strength and ability to do something about them, or bring me back to worshipping you. Help me to avoid situations that will cause worry because I know that the focus is then on myself. Point me to service for others to keep my hands and heart busy doing the work you have already provided for me to walk in and let it bring you glory. Amen      

Habukkuk

Sermon October 6 2019

Lectionary readings:

Lamentations 1:1-6

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:5-10

Lamentations Chapter 1 describes the unhappiness and gloom of Jerusalem following its destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. It was written by the prophet Jeremiah, who is also known as “the weeping prophet.”

In Lamentations 3 The faithful lament their calamities, and hope for God’s mercies.

In Luke 17, the disciples ask for their faith to be increased and Jesus responds with a parable that tells them they need humility.

In 2nd Timothy, Paul who is nearing the end of his life, doesn’t want to die without giving some last encouragement to Timothy who he loved and mentored. The reading focuses on reminding Timothy to hold fast to sound teaching, to guard and fight for the gospel. 

On todays’ lectionary page there was an alternate reading from Habakkuk and because I had not really studied that book, it caught my interest so I want to talk about this minor prophet with a big lesson today.

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

1:1 The prophecy that the prophet Habakkuk received.

1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

1:3 Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.

1:4 So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous– therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

2:1 I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.

2:2 Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.

2:3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.

2:4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.

Habakkuk means to embrace or to wrestle and Habakkuk did both. Usually a bible book of a prophet is about that prophet going out and telling the people what God has told him to say. Habukkuk is a sort of journal of a conversation with God. The book has only three chapters and is divided into three sections. The first is a conversation between Habakkuk and God, the next is a list of woes, and the last is a psalm of praise. 

Things have gone from bad to worse in Judah and for generations God has tried to get His people’s attention and they just turn away. So now, Habakkuk looks around and sincerely asks God, “God what are you doing? Are you going to save your people? And not only does he ask God these questions but he sets himself down to wait for an answer.  He is not budging an inch. This is so important to him.

God answers him! But the answer is not exactly what Habakkuk would have hoped. God tells him to judge Judea’s wickedness, he will hand them over to the Babylonians. Now we know as Habakkuk did, that the Babylonians were a warlike people who liked to plunder other lands. They are to Habakkuk, much more wicked than the Judeans. Habukkuk who has come to God to try to understand now is even more confused. He asks God how can He use such wicked people to punish the Jews. God is way ahead of Habakkuk and tells him to wait, that they too will be destroyed. He gives a list of all the bad things that will happen. 

The Babylonians plundered a lot of nations but the ones that are left will plunder them. The Babylonians disgraced nations but the Lord will disgrace them. The Babylonians made idols and called on them but the earth will be silent before the Lord.

Habakkuk then sings or prays a psalm of praise that ends with these words: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. 

There is comforting news in this text. 

  • God honors our sincere questions. I believe He wants us to bring our questions and worries and pain him along with our joys and praise. We look around at the world today and we wonder about some of the same things! We see violence, and strife and contention. We see justice perverted. Sometimes, there is nothing we can do. So we take it to the Father. 
  • God answers our questions and prayers. Sometimes we have to wait. Don’t give up. God responds to persistence!
  • Sometimes the answers are not what we might like but we see only our little piece of the whole tapestry and not the big picture. 
  • We can have faith that God will make everything right because God has been faithful in the past. We read over and over again, how the people turn away from God and God makes a way for them to be restored until the final answer, Jesus Christ. 
  • Spending time with God allows us to know Him better. Maybe we won’t get a direct answer to a specific question, but remember how you could tell sometimes who your kids were hanging out with by the way they acted or talked? The more time we spend with God, the more we have the chance to understand and trust Him as He changes our fears about this world to praise and a desire to bring about His kingdom here on earth.

Now Habakkuk composes a psalm of praise for the God that he trusts to eventually make all things right and we, having the perspective of reading this text after the New Testament, know that God does make all things right through His Son. who finally, once and for all, restores us to relationship with God, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Habakkuk 2:4 ends with “but the righteous live by their faith.” These 7 words are quoted 3 times in the New Testament. Romans 1:17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith

Galations 3:11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.

Hebrews 10:36-39 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For,“In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

  • We are to be a people that talks to the Lord and when we have planted our feet on the rampart and are waiting patiently for God to answer, even if it seems no answer is forthcoming, we will continue to walk by faith. 

The reminders in the text’s today are to be humble, to talk to the Lord, to hold on to the gospel, and have faith because God is faithful and will complete the work he has begun in each and every one of us.  

Scot Mcknight when teaching seminary said this: “Sometimes I ask students to read the prophets after they have read Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul articulates theology and the prophets inform us that theology isn’t what it is supposed to be until it is lived. Of course, Paul says this, too, but sometimes it takes time with a prophet to know what the apostle is saying.”

My challenge to all of us is to read any of Paul’s letter to the Romans and then go back and read any of the prophets. See for yourself how the gospel of grace has always been there. The good news that God sees and is at work to restore us to who we were meant to be, made in His image! But simply reading isn’t enough. We have to live it, go back and read some more and then walk it out some more. It is a lifelong and life changing conversation with the one who created us and knows and loves us too much to leave us incomplete and separate from Him and the rest of His creation. 

There is a beautiful comparison in the these texts. The disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith and Jesus spoke to them about humility. 

Habakkuk speaks to God about saving his people and God increases his faith.

Habakkuk got a lesson that is hard for us all to learn – that faith doesn’t mean there won’t be storms. Faith is a way to find meaning in a life where storms are inevitable. Amen.

Questions Jesus Asked Part 2 Matthew 5:46-47

Scripture: Matthew 5:46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

Context: So Jesus in Matthew 4 had just been driven to the desert and had his encounter with the devil, He began to preach, called his disciples, healed the sick, preached the sermon on the mount, made a series of statements that began with “You have heard it said, but I tell you. This question is a part of one of those statements. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Gospel Cross Reference ”luke 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Old Testament Reference :”Proverbs 25:21-22 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you.” (Paul quotes this in Romans 12:20) “The picture of putting coals on a person’s head initially sounds like a picture of causing burning pain, but it really is not. Instead, it seems to be a picture of stirring up the coals of a fire to rouse it back to life again. It is a picture of stirring within a person a response of remorse, when they see your kindness in the face of their meanness. “ https://engediresourcecenter.com/2015/07/08/heaping-burning-coals/

Quotes, Commentary: ”it begins with the beatitudes, not bedoitudes. The Pharisees had been putting all the emphasis upon what they were doing, their physical state. Jesus was redirecting their attention to their inner thought life, their spiritual state.

 “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside you”” Ralph Waldo Emerson”

Observations, Conclusions: When we realize how we are to be as Christians. we know there is no way we can do it. The minute we confess we are unable to do it, we have taken the first step towards depending on Jesus. Being a witness for Jesus is not something we are to do – it is who we are to be. Jesus DID what He said. As he was nailed to the cross He didn’t curse those who tortured and killed Him – He prayed for them: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Miscellaneous: The Jews would have viewed tax collectors as traitors and extortionists and to associate with pagans? Not done. They had been taught all their lives that they were to hold themselves apart. These questions would have elicited strong emotional responses. We are to love others the way God loves us:

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Agape is not love of the emotions but of the will. It may involve emotions but it always involves action. It is manifested by specific actions. 1 Cor 13:4 Gal 3:22, Matt 8:34

Prayer: Father search me and help me to identify those prejudices that I carry in my heart. Teach me your way of loving so that I may be a better witness for Jesus and more fully know you as I see you in others, including or especially those that I harbor hurt or anger towards. Amen

Questions Jesus Asked part 1 Matthew 5:13

I have been reading a lot about the emergent church, deconstructing and reconstructing your faith. It has caused me to question some things and in some ways I am learning to separate “church” from Jesus. I decided the best way to start for me, is to study Jesus. The first study I have decided to do is on the questions Jesus asked. There are some 300 (several people have actually made a list) and I may not tackle every one because some may not lend themselves to anything theological. I started a new notebook and jotted down the categories I wanted to explore. They are as follows: The scripture reference, Context (who, what, where), Cross reference in the gospels, Old Testament reference if any, Quotes and Commentary, Conclusions, and Observations and then anything else – stuff I might want to give a different category for later. It sounds kind of dry but it will help to keep me organized. What follows is the first question I came to.

Scripture: Matthew 5:13 You are the salt the earth, but what good is salt if it has lost it’s flavor? Can you make it salty again?

Context: Sermon on the Mount, right after the beatitudes which lay down the principles and rules of the kingdom of God. Speaking to Jews or Christians familiar with the Jewish faith

Gospel Cross Reference: Luke 14:34 Salt is good, but if it has lost it’s flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land or the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Heading – cost of discipleship)

Old Testament Reference: Salt – Leviticus 2:13 (laws about grain offerings) Numbers 18:19 salt covenant – everlasting, 2 Chronicles 13:5 David and descendants everlasting covenant of salt, Ezekiel 43-23bull and ram sacrifice sprinkled with salt – reminder of everlasting covenant, Genesis 19:23-26 Lot’s wife turned to salt – she lost her preserving qualities and became one with the world? Colossians 4:2-6 conversations should be seasoned with salt.

Quotes, Commentary: Kingdom action: function as salt, The pharisees took the basic laws delivered by God into hundreds. Jesus, through Matthew 5 compares the common standards for right and wrong to the standards He has set. He says we can’t live a righteous life through working harder- only through yielding to Him (From the inside out)

Observations, Conclusions: Following Jesus means to have salt or the flavor of Christ in every part of our lives. Salt preserves and purifies so having Christ in every part of our lives saves and cleanses us as an ongoing act of salvation.

Miscellaneous: Salt in biblical times was used as a flavoring, preservative, and purifier, Treaties were sealed with salt. Sometimes Roman soldiers were paid in salt.

Prayer: Father thank you for salt, for flavor in our lives. Teach me your ways. Let me have enough Christian flavor that I enhance everything around me and cause people to hunger for you. Amen

Luke 9

Scripture
Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)
9:28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.

9:29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.

9:30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.

9:31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

9:32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

9:33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said.

9:34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.

9:35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

9:36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

9:37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

9:38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child.

9:39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.

9:40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

9:41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

9:42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

9:43a And all were astounded at the greatness of God.


Transfiguration Story

1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.


My grandmother was from Scotland. She came to Canada by way of the Salvation Army. She signed up to be a cook for three years to pay her way. She met and married my grandfather and raised three kids during the depression.

My mother used to tell me that they didn’t know they were poor because everyone was poor. She told me once that the Communist party grew during this time (at least on paper) because a family would be put out of their home – be standing on the street with all their belongings in bags and the Communist party would have them sign a card saying they were a member and then put them up in an apartment, buy them some groceries, and help the man find a job. It wasn’t about ideology, it was about feeding your family and putting a roof over their heads – survival.

Part of those years my grandfather was overseas in the war. Before he came home, my uncle grew to be old enough to go into the service and they met in London. My uncle asked my grandfather if he still smoked and he said yes. Uncle Tom gave him cigarettes he had brought from home. My grandfather asked my uncle if he had started drinking and he said yes so they went to a pub and got to know each other all over again. In the meantime my mother had to have thyroid surgery. Her family doctor went into surgery with her and sat by her head as she had to remain awake and speak when asked to, to make sure they didn’t nick her vocal cords.

Some time after all of this – once the surgery was over, my grandfather and uncle were both home, my grandmother sat down at the kitchen table and had a small nervous breakdown. They carried her out of the house in the same chair she sat in because she couldn’t move – she was catatonic. She recovered and life went on.


I tell you this story because I love old family stories and we all have them. Our stories remind us of who we are, where we come from, and that others have gone through trials and made it through to the other side so we know that we can too. Just as our family stories remind us of who we are, our faith stories remind us of who we are in relationship with God. We see ourselves in the people of the bible, trying to work out how to live as God’s people

Our text today starts with the words “after these sayings”. I want to back up and talk about those sayings because I think they have a lot of bearing on this text.


In Luke 9, Jesus had called the disciples together and given them power and authority to drive out demons and heal the sick and sent them out. Good stuff! Then we have a weird little paragraph about Herod wanting to see this Jesus. Not so good! Then the apostles returned and told Jesus everything they had done and they all withdrew for a little quiet time but people found them and Jesus taught the crowds and healed people and then we have the miraculous feeding of 5000 people, Again – good stuff! and then:


Luke 9:18 tells us

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”

21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Not so good?)

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

27 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”


So, we have the disciples seeing the miracle of multiplying loaves and fishes, then we see them getting the bad news that their friend and teacher, their Messiah, must suffer and die. They must have been wondering if they had made a terrible mistake. They had given up everything, their jobs, their families, their homes, all to follow Jesus and now He is saying He will die. They had put all their hopes and dreams in this man and now instead of triumph, they see a future in ashes.


According to today’s text, it is only 8 days after this conversation that Peter and John climb the mountain with Jesus. This mountain was Mount Hermon which is a little over 9000 feet tall. There is a ski resort there. I have been to the top of Mount Evans in Colorado which is 14000 feet tall. I went in July. Started the trip in 90 degree weather and finished with coat, hat and mittens and snow. I got out of the van and started to walk around and realized I had forgotten my camera so I ran back to the van to get it. Running at that altitude is a big mistake. I went down the mountain flat on my back on the floor of the van with a terrible headache. They call it altitude sickness.


So here we have Peter and John climbing this mountain with Jesus, probably still reeling from the news that Jesus is going to suffer and die. I don’t know what was going through their minds but I can put myself in their place and imagine what I would be feeling. The lazy part of me would have been wondering at the necessity of climbing 9000 feet to pray. When I wasn’t huffing and puffing and whining about how the temperature is dropping and these sandals do not offer a lot of protection from snow….my mind would have been mulling things over. Surely Jesus was speaking in metaphors. He isn’t really going to die, and what does he mean he will be raised again? Why would he need to die if he is going to come back to life? How is this going to save us all? How much farther is it? Are we there yet??

Now we find them on the mountaintop. Jesus is praying and as He prays, He is changed. The appearance of Jesus face changed, and His clothes became dazzling white.


We could talk about how sometimes prayer doesn’t change your situation. We could talk about how sometimes prayer changes YOU. It brings you closer to the One who can sustain you through your circumstance.

But I want to move on with the story!


The disciples saw Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus. Two of the most important prophets were there with Jesus and they were talking about the very things Jesus had spoken of with His disciples. The text says the disciples were weighed down with sleep which makes sense as they had just climbed this 9000 foot mountain, but they stayed awake so they got to see something very special! They had a glimpse of glory!

We could talk about the importance of staying awake and paying attention so we don’t miss miracles that happen around us every day, even when we are feeling “world weary”.

But let’s get on with the story!


I love Peter. I identify with him. In my mind he is the person that exasperated Jesus but the very things that are exasperating are also the things Jesus seemed to love about him. He speaks without thinking, but he loves Jesus. He doesn’t always do the right thing but his intention and his heart are good and he shows up! He messes up and falls down but he keeps getting back up and like a child, tries to put his feet in the prints of His savior even though those footprints are far to big for him.

Peter is excited! He says this is awesome! Let’s build some cabins – one each for you, Moses, and Elijah. Now, he was not being selfish and he was being practical. He didn’t say he would build a shelter for himself – Just for Jesus and the prophets. They were exposed at a high elevation. They would need shelter! But as usual with Peter, his words were not the appropriate response.

Suddenly they were covered by a cloud. They are on top of a mountain, in the cold and now it’s dark. They can’t see anything. In my imagination, they are afraid to move. What if you fell on some rocks? Or off a cliff? It’s a long way down and this is before cell phones, before 911, before much of anything in the way of medical care. Jesus has recently told them he has to die and now they are seeing things that are completely out of the ordinary! Personally I think they handled it pretty calmly, all things considered! No wonder they were terrified!

We could talk about how important it is to trust Jesus even when you can’t see your next step… But I want to go on with the story!


Next they hear a voice come out of the cloud saying this is My Son, My Chosen, listen to Him!” The same words God had spoken at Jesus baptism with an addition. “Listen to Him” And then Jesus was alone. The prophets were gone.

We could talk about how these words showed that Peter wanting to build three dwellings was an incorrect response because the prophets are not on the same level as Jesus. They are gone now and God is doing a new thing and the most important thing is to listen to Jesus.

But I want to move on because we are nearly to the end of this particular faith story!


They told no one what they had seen. Who would have believed them if they had? But they have been on the mountain top. They have seen the prophets of old, and they have heard the voice of God. When you think about it, no wonder Peter wanted to stick around. Have you ever had a mountaintop experience? Something happens that gives you such peace and joy and you just wish it would last! But if life was nothing but a mountaintop experience, then we would not need God. We would not appreciate the spiritual high because we would not have the low to compare it to and a faith that is never tested is not a very strong faith.

Now they climbed back down from this mountain and when they got to the bottom there was a crowd waiting.

We could talk about why were they just waiting at the bottom of the mountain? If they really wanted to see Jesus why didn’t they put in a little effort – climb up to find him?

But I want to finish this story so we can all go home!


A man comes out of the crowd asking Jesus to look at his son who has a demon. Now just recently, Jesus had given the disciples power and authority to heal and minister. The man had asked them to help his son but they could not and Jesus has some pretty harsh words! You faithless and perverse generation! How long must I be with you? Then he rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the child and gave him back to his father.

Wow!

I’m tempted to think critical of the disciples but maybe this little weird addition after the mountaintop experience is here to remind us that all of us individuals or corporately as the church, have times when we are so close to heaven that we can almost touch the fingers of God and how often does that happen and then it seems like moments later, someone is complaining about the music or the bulletin or how church is too hot or too cold and did you see what she wore to church last Sunday??

We come down from the mountain and unclean spirits are waiting at the bottom, nipping at our heels or our hearts. Day to day life descends like a cloud on our heads.


And that is why we need these faith stories. These old stories that remind of of who we are and whose we are and that even those who walked on earth with Jesus and heard the very voice of God in the cloud, still had feet of clay and stumbled and backslid and didn’t always understand just like us. So like Peter we keep keeping on anyway, we fall down and get back up, say inappropriate things, don’t love the way we should, repent and keep listening for Jesus.

In the days that followed, there would be troubles. Jesus was arrested, Peter denied knowing Him, Jesus was beaten and suffered. I imagine the disciples in hiding, frightened, worried not knowing if they were to be next and was this the end? And then someone would start talking about being on the mountaintop. And how Jesus was greater than the prophets of old and that God himself spoke and said Jesus was His chosen son. And as they told and retold the story, their faith was made stronger. That is what our faith stories do for us!


When we read through these events we see a kind of pattern. Something good happens, something bad happens, something good, something bad. The good and bad are constantly held in tension and isn’t that the way our lives go? Especially our spiritual lives! The moments we feel strongest in our faith, something happens to test it! But we know how this story ends! Jesus dies, but he is raised again. God keeps His promises and we will experience death just as Jesus did but because Jesus was raised so too will we go on to eternal life. The veil isn’t needed anymore! Jesus ripped it away and as long as we listen to HIM, through the Holy Spirit, we can have understanding, we can hold to our faith, and we can learn to see each other as God sees us!


Quote

I want to leave you with a quote from Robert Benson:
“That in the end, my sin will never outweigh God’s love. That the Prodigal can never outrun the Father. That I am not measured by the good I do but by the grace I accept. That being lost is a prerequisite to being found. That living a life of faith is not lived in the light, it is discovered in the dark. That not being a saint here on earth will not necessarily keep you from being in that number when the march begins. “


Let us pray

Father we want to see your glory. We want to stay with you on the mountaintop often without actually having to climb the mountain. We forget that your glory lives in the ways we show your love to others. We want to be better listeners and to understand so that we can know your will for us and then because we understand, to do your will. We forget that if we want to know what the Father is doing, we have to listen to your Son. We long for the day when the cloud is gone and we not only hear your voice but see your face and know you fully and understand the depth of your love for each and every one of us as we are fully known by you. Amen

John 2:1-11&1 Cor12:1-11

This week both the epistle reading and the gospel reading seemed to fit together for me so I’m going to talk about both and hopefully pull them together for you at the end.

John 2:1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so,  and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside  and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The story of Jesus turning water into wine gives us 3 things to think about and help us remember.

1. New life

2. New Covenant

3. New Revelation

1. New Life – Changing one element into something else can symbolize marriage – it brings new life out of two people who become one. The relationship between God and the Israelites was symbolized by marriage. Israel was repeatedly an unfaithful spouse and was sent into exile. Ezekiel 16 is very graphic in describing Jerusalem as an adulterous wife. Jesus represents new life and restored relationship with God.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

2. New covenant – The old covenant was broken and time and time again, God’s people did not keep their part of the promise or contract. The stone jars were not for drinking water – they were for ceremonial washing of people and utensils. Jesus turning the water into wine proved that he had more than fulfilled the ceremonial cleansing.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’”

3. New revelation – This miracle demonstrated the nature of God’s glory revealed through Christ. All of the stories and miracles and history of the old testament were wonderful and important and teach us so much about who we are and who God is, but this moment gives us a sneak peek into How God has saved the best for last.

Summing it up – Jesus brings us new life – we are free from the endless cycle of making and breaking promises to God. Jesus cleanses us – we are no longer sinners doomed to death. Jesus reveals God’s surprising and eternal nature and His glory.

And so we tell the stories of Jesus over and over. We read them for ourselves and I don’t know about you, but I find different things in those same stories year after year, maybe because God reaches out to us through His word right where and when we are. Spiritual needs change with the different seasons of our lives and so the same stories we have always heard take on new meanings and new depth.

Let us look at the epistle reading

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Concerning Spiritual Gifts
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

It’s a little ironic that I am speaking to you this Sunday. During the Monday morning bible study as we read the lectionary reading for this week, Mark went around the table asking us what our spiritual gifts are. Miss Susie was kind – she said my gift was knowing what to say and how to say it. My interpretation was that I am a chatterbox. I do like to talk. Ask my husband…or maybe you should NOT ask my husband (even if my pastor says he has infinite wisdom!) But aside from talking – I love words! I love stories and poems and art and all of the ways that we as humans try to connect with each other. I love that I can read the same passage in the bible at different times in my life and see something different each time. An example is the reading for this week from the gospel of Mark. I have read that story many times but never until this week did I pick up on the water jars not being for drinking water but water for ceremonial cleaning of people and utensils.

I love the stories of Paul and his care of the churches that he planted, even though Paul sometimes reminds me of shoes that are too tight. Necessary but often uncomfortable!


In the case of the church at Corinth, there were serious problems. They were showing up, but they were what is called in today’s vernacular – a hot mess, and we know that they wrote to Paul about their problems and he wrote several letters back to them addressing those problems. Some of the problems in the early church were similar to the problems in the present day church. Sometimes we forget that the purpose of coming to church is NOT just to come to church!


I used to read this passage about gifts with a little dismay. Partly because I have heard so many sermons that spoke about gifts that seemed to be followed by a hint that I needed to get busy and figure out what my gift is and then do some kind of work in my church related to that gift. I worried too about whether or not I even had a gift! I would observe some of the more mature saints in the church and think, they are so much more capable, loving, spiritual…well you get the picture.

As gifts go, it was to me, a lot like getting clothes for my birthday instead of the pink glitter bike with pastel streamers and pretty basket on the front. I’ve taken spiritual gift surveys and had that same feeling of trepidation because with the answers might come expectations.

But Bible.org defines spiritual gifts as “the supernatural ability to carry out the work of Christ through his church.”

So if we take that definition at face value the question that has to be answered next is “What is the work of Christ” as it pertains to us.

Let’s look at Matthew 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In this passage, Jesus has been crucified, died, and has risen. The tomb is empty. The women have been told by the angel to go to Galilee and on the way there, Jesus appears to them and tells them to go to his brothers and tell them to go to Galilee too. Jesus appears to the disciples who at this point are probably at a loss as to what to do next. In my imagination, they are grieving the loss of their friend and teacher, afraid of what the future holds for them because of their association with Jesus, and in their humanness, wondering if they have not put all their hope on the wrong thing. Now Jesus shows up and wipes all that doubt away and gives them the very things they need – faith and purpose!

The work of Christ that we are to continue is to make disciples, baptizing and teaching them. Jesus appeared to His disciples and gave them this job so it follows that maybe to make disciples we have to BE disciples. We as individuals and as The Church can’t teach others to follow Christ if we are not following Christ ourselves.

Fast forward to Corinth where this little baby church is fighting over who they follow, doing things we don’t even whisper about in church, never mind do, and just basically in disorder and Paul wades in and tries to help them sort themselves out. He reminds them who they used to be and who they are now.

He pretty much says calm down, everyone is important, God works in everyone and that work is for all and the Spirit gives those gifts as HE pleases so no one can say they are better than anyone else or that their gift is better than any other gift.

It is in our nature is to compare ourselves to others. To think we have goodness because we are better in some way than someone else. That is a trap that puts us slap in the middle of the old covenant where rules and sacrifice and work were the cycle that made the ancient Israelites do right in the sight of the Lord and then do evil in the sight of the Lord.

Romans 7:19 says For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.

We are free from that trap because Jesus has made us ceremonially clean, he has given us a new covenant – we are right with God, not because of what we do, but because of what God has done through Christ. God saved the best for last!

When the kids were small we lived in Emberson and there was a field next to our yard with a pecan tree and in the spring the field was covered in daffodils. I looked out one day to check on the kids and saw Jessica sitting in the middle of the flowers picking handfuls.

I know you remember when your own children were small and they brought you a bunch of crushed daffodils or a picture they drew for you and that your heart was full. It was better than any expensive roses or painting because of who gave it to you and because it was given out of love. And just that way, these gifts that Paul wrote about are not just jobs or talents or responsibilities. They are the very manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the comforter and encourager that was given to us when Jesus went back to be with the Father.

They are given as He determines – so we don’t have to DO anything. We don’t have to try to have a gift. We don’t have to try to perfect a gift we think we might have. We just have to follow Christ. The Holy Spirit will take care of the gifts.

Paul tells them to listen for Jesus. It doesn’t matter who is actually doing the speaking. Listen for Christ being spoken into your life. Listen for the Holy Spirit. The actual gift doesn’t matter so much as the giver and the gift also doesn’t matter as much as what it accomplishes which is the work of Jesus Christ – which is following Jesus, through that Holy Spirit that is speaking to you – so closely that when someone looks at you, they see Jesus. When someone hears you speak, they hear God loving them. When someone sees your life, they see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Colossians 3:15-17

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

We are water being transformed into wine so that others will see the glory of God in us and believe. That my precious church, is our purpose!

Amen.

East Texas Winter

Texas winter can’t make up it’s mind
trying on weather and discarding
the too tight or out of style
as though it makes a difference
lacy white for a marriage that won’t last
as mud gets tracked in like so many
steps across a brown field
wind cuts through the truth and leaves
me wishing for a spring
that only teases it’s way into summer

Build, Plant, Pray

Jeremiah is the longest book in the bible. I always thought it was Psalms but it turns out that Jeremiah has the largest word count. Much of it is not a happy story so I started out wondering why I was so determined to find Jesus in Jeremiah. Why would I want to talk about such a depressing time at the beginning of Advent?

As I studied Jeremiah this week, I kept remembering something my mother used to say. “There is nothing new under the sun” What she was telling me was that no matter how new and different I might think my generation was, we were the same old thing, just dressed up a little different. Underneath, rebellion has always been with us, people do good, people do bad, seasons change and people remain basically the same. So as we talk about this time in history, we can see (as we often do in the bible) similarities to ourselves.

The Lord had brought his people out of slavery, led them out of the out of Egypt and that story could have ended “and they dwelled in peace and loved the Lord and lived happily ever after.” But the bible doesn’t end after the Israelites are rescued.

We fast forward to the time of Jeremiah, and the temple has stood in Jerusalem for 300 years, but the people had drifted far away from God. They made gods of their own.

Jeremiah 16:20 tells us
…O LORD, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in the day of distress, the nations will come to You from the ends of the earth, and they will say, “Our fathers inherited nothing but lies, worthless idols of no benefit at all.” Can man make gods for himself? Such are not gods! “Therefore behold, I will inform them, and this time I will make them know My power and My might; then they will know that My name is the LORD.”…

God spoke to Jeremiah and told him he was to prophecy and Jeremiah tried to convince God that he was not the man for the job. He was young. He didn’t know what to say. God told him that He himself would give him the words to say. God told him not to marry so Jeremiah just got news that might not have been too exciting. He was going to be alone, and his calling was to tell people things they didn’t want to hear. So Jeremiah begins a not so fun career of telling the Jews, particularly the leaders, that God is going to give them over to their enemies. Jeremiah was the only real prophet at the time and his competition was telling people that God is with them and they will have peace and victory over Babylon so Jeremiah was preaching a message that was pretty unpopular. The people were enjoying their status as God’s people without living up to the reality. Talking the talk without walking the walk. They were not listening. They made gods of their own and there was no justice in the land.

Much of the book is a series of warnings and advice. There are a lot of If/Then statements.

If the people return to God, then God will give them Godly leaders. If there is one honest person among them, God will forgive them. If they reform their ways, then God will allow them to live in the land. If they stop worshipping other gods, then God will not harm them. If they will call on God, then God will listen to them. If they will seek God with all their hearts, then God will be found by them and rescue them from captivity.

Jeremiah’s ministry did not draw crowds unless you count the ones who wanted to kill him. He didn’t inspire people to give up their wealth so he could buy a jet plane (though he did get travel, he got kidnapped). He didn’t preach to a megachurch or have his own TV show or wear a rolex.

Jeremiah questions God throughout his ministry. He wonders why the people plot against him. He asks for vengeance on the wicked who prosper, to heal him, to save him, to put his persecutors to shame.

Jeremiah travels around and speaks to kings, priests, leaders, and anyone else he can find. Over and over you read his warnings, his advice and the peoples’ response and you see that through Jeremiah, God gives the people chance after chance for His people to follow His voice and keep His covenant. But the people didn’t listen. Everything that Jeremiah prophesied came true. Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Jews, the temple was destroyed, the city was burned. The Babylonians set up a new governor and went home. The governor was assassinated and the Jews asked Jeremiah what to do. Their choices were to stay were they were or go to Egypt as refugees. Jeremiah told them that the Lord had promised that if they stayed in their land they would be ok. They will live in peace under Babylonian rule. But they go their own way and so God brings the Babylonians against Egypt and again things do not go well with the Jews.

The people are marched 500 miles though desert to Babylon where they are in exile from their home, no temple, no one speaking their language, surrounded by foreign idols, and there were still false prophets who were telling them exactly what they wanted to here. That they would not be in exile for long. Jeremiah wrote to the exiles and told them they would be in Babylon for 70 years, and that God wanted them to marry and have children and multiply and flourish. They were to pray for the city where they lived (their enemies!) because if that place flourished, so would they.

This seems like odd advice to refugees. Bloom where you’re planted people. Things are not the way you want but don’t have a fit, don’t throw a pity party. Pray for your captors and get on with your life. I have to admit, that part about praying for the people that burned your city, destroyed your temple and marched you off to a foreign land, caught me off guard. But it was practical. They were going to be there for a long time. To wish calamity on the place you are are stuck in doesn’t make sense, does it?

We all have experience types of exile. Sometimes we are in situations of our own creation which is doubly troubling. An encounter with one of your children where you feel like anything but the picture you had of yourself as a parent. Waking up and realizing that you are in debt and you know you got yourself there but how are you going to get out? Times when you are in exile from yourself or at least the self you wanted to be.

Sometimes we are in exile through situations out of our control. The marriage that falls apart, the doctor who sadly tells us the test results are serious. The job, where we walk in only to receive a pink slip. We feel like we are in exile, alone. And maybe we feel the need to drop out of life for awhile.

But Jeremiah drops you a note that says build, plant, marry, pray. God tells us to live our lives, find purpose, be part of a community.

This is great though not always easy to follow advice to us as individuals but what about us as The Church? Does it feel sometimes like the church is experiencing exile? We definitely live in a land of idols and sometimes it seems like the world is speaking a different language. A language that says achieve, gain financial success, protect your own and it’s fine to go to church on Sunday but don’t give me that Jesus stuff at work or on my way to the bank or when I’m shopping at a Walmart on a crowded Saturday. even church has become a social thing – go to the right church, buy the right products, dress the right way, Sing the right songs, sit in the right pew…Don’t be squirming about the pew – it’s ok, we are all creatures of habit. DO things and you will be accepted by who? God? Other people? Do we still gravitate to those who say what we want to hear? Do we still worship our gods of our own making?

Now we come to the part of Jeremiah that speaks to the future. Jeremiah writes to the Jews in exile.
Jeremiah 31:31-34
The New Covenant
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah writes words of comfort to the exiles. He tells them they will be there for 70 years but there will be an end to exile. Meeting with God will no longer be dependent on a place – the temple, but they would know God directly through His son. Todays scripture.

Jeremiah 33:14-16 New International Version (NIV)
14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
15
“‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
16
In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’

God had a plan for them AND for us. There would come a time when there will be no more exile. Sin and death has been defeated, and God has written His law on our hearts and and now He will be our God and we will be His people. So we begin this season of preparing for a savior to be born by first realizing how badly we need Him. We have been given chance after chance after chance and still our human nature causes us to try to do good all on our own. We try to fashion our own gods, whether is be our job, our families, or our STUFF. We dismiss or minimize our own sin by pointing at our neighbors and saying but look! At least I’m not as bad as those people! We place ourselves in exile. We strive and grasp and forget what God has already done for us. So as the church, we stay in the Jesus, build community, plant seeds of the love and grace and salvation of Christ Jesus, and pray for those who are at the least, unkind to us. It may feel like we are in exile sometimes but God has promised an end to that and the work is already done.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Luke 22:20
And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (there He is – Jesus! The new covenant Jeremiah spoke of!)

So let’s be quiet. Be at peace, experience true glory, real and unexplainable love, and take refuge in knowing that God has sent a savior, to all of us. To you and you and you, and even to me.

I found this poem by Ann Weems months ago and tucked it aside for the right moment and I want to close by sharing it with you now.

The Christmas spirit
is that hope
Which tenaciously clings
To the hearts of the faithful
And announces 
in the face
Of any Herod the world can produce
And all the inn doors slammed into our faces
And all the dark nights of our souls
That with God
All things are still possible,
That even now

Unto us
A Child is born!

Amen!

August 12, 2018

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Who IS the Holy Spirit?

Years ago when Dale was working on the pipeline and we were traveling with others who were doing the same, one of the mens’ wives came for a visit. They took a weekend trip and he was driving while she read the map (this was before the days of GPS!) Apparently she was not doing to suit him and some words were exchanged and she rolled down the window and threw the atlas out the window as they were going down the road. I think it is safe to say, this man had “grieved” his wife….. I will come back around to this in a few minutes.

Being a Christian is not a place we land – a milestone we achieve. This world is set up with many milestones – graduation, marriage, raising children, financial stability, retirement.

We feel as though we have accomplished something when we reach one of those milestones. We can buy the t shirt and relax for awhile – we have made it!

But biblically – life is not a series of plateaus. We are always moving – sometimes toward God and sometimes away from God.  God is the destination but like the ancient Israelites in the desert we travel in circles and backtrack and spend a lot of time just being lost even when we THINK we are going in the right direction. Well maybe you don’t – but I sure do!

Example – story in 2nd Kings 5

paraphrased

Naaman was a great man but he got leprosy. A young slave girl said if he went to see Elisha he could be cured. Namaan took money and gifts for the prophet and goes. Elisha sends a messenger out to meet him telling him to wash in the Jordan 7 times. At first Naaman gets angry. That’s it?  But his servants say hey, if the prophet says do it what can it hurt. He does what he is told and is cured. He returns to Elisha and tries to give him gifts but Elisha won’t take gifts for something God did. Naaman has now become a believer.

In the meantime a servant of Elisha named Gehazi is listening and he runs after Naaman and tells a lie saying Elisha sent him to get Naaman to give him some money.

Gehazi ends up with leprosy.

Naaman obeyed and was healed by God and left filled with joy. He was moving toward God. Ghazi tried to profit from something God had done and in doing so moved away from God.  There are consequences.

So back in Ephesus…

Paul spends a little time telling the folks at the church in Ephesus how they are to live now that they have this new covenant (or relationship) with God through Christ by way of the Holy Spirit. He gives a list and not only is it a list of things to avoid if you want to keep moving toward God, but it is a list of things that can give the devil a foothold. There is a whole sermon in giving the devil a foothold but that’s going to have to wait for another day.

Paul says stop lying, stop sinning in your anger, stop stealing, work so you will have extra to share with those in need, speak in a way that builds others up “so that your words may give grace to those who hear” He doesn’t say “if’ you are doing these things. He knows our sinful nature.

Paul says Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. How do we grieve the Holy Spirit? Well, It helps me to understand if I learn a little more about WHO the Holy Spirit is so I went on a search to learn more and what I found that the Holy Spirit IS a WHO. A person. Not a thing, not a ghost.  In the bible the Holy Spirit is often referred to as He. The bible also uses verbs to say what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit is active!

Gen. 1:1-2 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”

The Spirit has always been there. 

2 Timothy 3: 16 tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.  and 2 Peter 1:21 “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit

Scripture comes from the Holy Spirit. 

John 16:7 Jesus said: “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you”

The Holy spirit is a person and our helper. Jesus sent HIM to us!

John 14:26

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

The Holy Spirit is our advocate – defends us, teaches us, convicts us and reminds us

Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a gift to us from God

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

The Holy Spirit speaks to us and gives us direction

Acts 15:8 And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us;

God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit

Acts 15:28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials:

The Holy Spirit is a decision maker and works with us and within us

Romans 5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

The Holy Spirit is how God interacts with us 

So where are you. Are you moving toward God or away?

John 14:6 says 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” and 14:16 says 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth.

Someone much smarter than I am described our journey like this – God is the destination, Jesus is the conduit through which we reach our destination, and the Holy Spirit is the engine that moves us in the right direction.

As we wander in our circles, Jesus came to be our advocate but He had to die and be raised so that sin and death would be conquered and that work is complete but we still have to get through this thing called life. So Jesus asked the Father to send us ANOTHER advocate that would be with us forever to guide us, to help us know the truth from the lies of the world and to come along side of us in this wilderness world.

Are you going to throw the atlas out the window? Would you ignore a friend? Refuse a gift? I challenge each of us to read our bibles and learn more about the Holy Spirit. To pray and ask God to help us to hear this advocate, helper, guide when He speaks to us. Let’s all fall in love with God and have hearts that thirst for more, for a deeper relationship with God through the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent us. If the one who died for our sins chose to send us someone that He said we would need, doesn’t it make sense to pay attention?

Easter Sunday 2018

 

I had the honor of giving the message at Powderly Methodist Church and Chicota Methodist Church on Easter Sunday and so while this is a bit late, the following is some of what I shared.

1 Corinthians 15:14

“ And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

My husband is a kidney transplant recipient. He was also the third of five children. When he was born, my mother-in-law nicknamed him “caboose” because she thought she was finished having babies. She was wrong. She went on to have two more daughters. She loved all her children but I think that raising five children and caring for an unpleasant, ailing mother-in-law on a Game Warden’s salary was perhaps not part of her life plan so she questioned. She prayed. She got through it.

Fast forward years later, all the children are grown and my husband’s mother passed away. My husband goes into kidney failure. His youngest sister donated a kidney.

Did you catch that? God had provided a solution before there was a problem! If that last baby had not been born, my husband might not have seen his children grow up, get married, and give us two beautiful grand daughters!

My mother-in-law passed away before any of this occurred and as far as I know, she never got answers to her questions about having five children and some of the struggles and yet she had such a strong and loving faith. Sometime when we pray and it seems like we don’t get answers, it just might be that part of our problem is part of the answer to someone else’s prayer!

Our perspective is so narrow and our imagination so limited. God sees the entire picture and is busy working everywhere all the time, though we may go through times when we feel as though He has turned his back on us.

God made a solution that gave my husband back to me and God provided a solution to bring us all back to Him.

Jesus​ ​took on our sin and while we tend to think that Good Friday is the low​ ​point of Holy Week, Jesus still had power on Good Friday. He could​ ​have come down from the cross if he had chosen to. But on Saturday he​ ​was completely identified with us at our most powerless. He was gone, and as the bible says, descended to the dead. No power. Nothing. He came​ ​to join us here, but not to leave us here. By experiencing death, Jesus completed the picture of identifying

with us.

But then, God raised him up – not just a spirit or an angel. Luke 24:37 says​ ​They were startled and frightened​, thinking they saw a ghost. No. He​ ​ate with the disciples. He was solid, living flesh. He was not the​ ​same, as though the cross never happened. He bore the scars so the crucifixion was now a part of him. He was changed. He was different,​ ​new.

And so it is with us. We will experience death. It is a defeated​ ​enemy, but an enemy still.1s​ t Thessalonians 14:13 says ​ ​But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope​. We are told not to grieve as those who have​ ​no hope, but we are NOT told not to grieve.

What does the resurrection give us? So very much but we will look at three things this morning.

Jesus is divine​.

Mark 2:5-7​ 5​ ​And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are

forgiven.” 6​ ​Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,7​ ​“Why does

this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Everybody knew you had to go to the temple to receive forgiveness. He performed miracles. He

claimed to do these things in God’s authority. The resurrection put’s God’s stamp of approval on

all these things. By raising Jesus from the dead, God was saying that everything Jesus

promised is true.

It vindicates the cross

The early church claimed the cross was the victory over sin and death. The resurrection

provided the authority on which they made that claim. Romans 6:23 says 2​ 3 ​For the wages of

sin ​is​ death, but the gift of God ​is​ eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The resurrection is victory

over death and death is caused by sin.

It Vindicates Us

Galations 2:20 ​ ​I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; Jesus was crucified, and in a way – we were too. If he died, so did we. If he is raised, then so

too will we be raised. He is coming back.

What does that mean for us? There are people who study and have opinions about what will take place and when and how. There are pre-tribulationists, post-tribulationists, mid-tribulationists. We could spend days talking about all that. I don’t know who’s right and and frankly I’m not concerned with the details and you don’t have to be either!

All I really need to know is that God created me and loves me. He formed me in my mother’s womb to be holy and and knew I would miss the mark. Rather than giving me what I deserve He made a way. When I couldn’t make the ascent up to Him, He came down to me. Through His walk on earth He taught me what I should do to be closer to Him and knowing that He knew I still​ would miss the mark – He died FOR me! He sees past my sin – He sees the resurrection me!

But wait! There’s more! Even if that was the end of the story it would be incredible. That I could be loved to that extent is in itself miraculous. But no, that is not the end of the story! Through the amazing grace of God and through His son, though my human body will go to sleep, I will be raised and I will live but more than just live, I will have life abundantly. Creation will no longer be broken.

Everything will work to the good of everything else and there will be no sin, no sorrow, no death, no pain. We can study the bible looking for clues of what this will be like but we just get hints. All I know for sure is that it is going to be good because His thoughts and ways are so much higher than mine. It is beyond what I can imagine. So we continue to get to know Him and let Him transform us into Easter people fit for that new life, Amen?

My daughter gave me an Amazon Echo Dot for Christmas. I can ask questions by phrasing them Alexa, What is the weather today, or for my grand daughter – Alexa, tell me a bedtime story. I recently learned another Alexa skill – I can say Alexa, have the bible app read me (whatever scripture). I listened to the lectionary readings on it and as I was listening to 1 Corinthians, I was transfixed. The voice was a deep, rich male voice and suddenly I could picture Paul speaking to this young church that was dealing with so much confusion and temptation and I felt as though I was sitting there hearing the words for the first time and I realized that we too need that reminder of what we are here for and what we have to look forward to – otherwise our preaching and our faith is in vain.

Father we are so grateful for your love and providence, for your grace and for your Son. We are grateful for the sacrifice of the cross and that you raised Jesus from the dead so that we too, can someday be with you in glory and and finally be able to say face to face we worship you, we praise you and we love you.

Grouchy Old Person

I have been so dismayed at how mean and badly behaved we humans are. Most of the feeling came from reading things people wrote or shared on Facebook. Last night my husband and I went to a concert at a local venue. A local band opened (and I thought they were very good!) and Sundance Head  played later. As I am addicted to The Voice and he was a Voice winner we decided we would do something very much out of the ordinary for us. We bought tickets. It has probably been over thirty years since we have gone to any kind of concert and even longer since we have been to a bar. I am not opposed to people having drinks. I just don’t want to be around drunks. There was a bar at the venue. The room was set up with wooden spool tables in the circle closest to the band and then chairs behind those tables. I didn’t know you could reserve a table so we were on chairs just behind one of them. The group who reserved that particular table came in late and then people would come up to visit with them, standing in front of us…while the band was playing.  At one point a man squeezed in to talk to them and I actually had to move my legs until they were nearly in the chair with my husband to accommodate him.

The tickets stated from 7 to 11 pm. They actually opened the doors at 7. We sat and waited until nearly 8. There was a group of 30-40 year olds behind us who may or may not have imbibed before they got there. They were incapable of speaking in “inside voices” especially one very obnoxious guy who stood right behind me talking even after the first band started. If the band got louder so did he.

Couples started to move to the dance floor and at one point in the night Mr. Obnoxious actually hit me in the back of the head with his elbow as he headed out to dance without so much as an excuse me – I really didn’t mean to give you a concussion and in daily life I really am not such an ass.”

Back in the day (yes I am old) it was the girls who were shaking it on the dance floor. This group changed that. It was the men who were strutting it out there. There were two classes of dancers. Those who obviously paid for lessons and then practiced in bars, frequently. Then you had the Seinfeld “Elaine” type who after a few beers thought they were accomplished dancers but in reality if you were sober and watching, well, picture a fish thrown onto the bank and occasionally experiencing electrical shocks. Word to the ladies – if this is who you are dancing with – stop drinking. This is the one who will cause you to do the walk of shame in the morning.

We did enjoy the music but I doubt we will repeat this activity. I know they were just having a good time but the rude and drunk mating rituals of the American reduce are just not for me. I will watch The Voice in my own living room where I can actually hear the music in my comfortable chair and not have to worry about an elbow to the head injury.

Signed: Old Crotchety Fuddy Duddy.

 

New Year Reflections

I had so many dark thoughts about the past year and not a lot of positive for the next. I was prepared to write a ranting post about the horrible state of the world and then….I read several things written by folks much smarted than I am. For instance:

“Speaking of the happy new year, I wonder if any year ever had less chance of being happy. It’s as though the whole race were indulging in a kind of species introversion — as though we looked inward on our neuroses. And the thing we see isn’t very pretty… So we go into this happy new year, knowing that our species has learned nothing, can, as a race, learn nothing — that the experience of ten thousand years has made no impression on the instincts of the million years that preceded.” John Steinbeck January 1, 1941

It would seem that as bad as things seem, they come in cycles so in the words of Bette Davis “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” I’m going to hang on and hope to ride it out until the wheel turns.

 

as long as there are poets

and stars up in the sky

then hope will fling the sweetest words

to float above us high
as long as there are singers

the band will surely play

marry the two, the singer the song

the heart will have it’s say
as long as there are dancers

and feet to tap the time

to travel the world on a single floor

movement synced with rhyme
as long as there are painters

to mirror color and line

reflect the hope, the world goes on

with brushstroke, broad and fine
as long as there’s a speck of God

in every living soul

creative need a planted seed

will help to make us whole
as long as there are hands to make

to reach across a chasm deep

to hold, to soothe, extend to shake

to do the work till time to sleep
from heart to mind to hands and feet

all will sing and move and say

and when we’re gone the song goes on

shadow, echo, fade away

 

Happy 2017 world.

Copy and Paste If You Agree…

I posted this on Facebook. I am probably being unfriended or dismissed as a libtard as I repost here. I wrote this after reading two posts by other folks. I copied part of their post and put it in the google search bar and though they did not say so on their post – their words did not come from them. The only clue was that at the bottom of their post were the words “copy and paste if you agree”  Interesting enough, one person who had copies and pasted and shared something that they did not write actually “liked” my post…

The funny thing is, I actually consider myself more of a conservative at last by my understanding of what it means to be conservative. I also believe in helping others. I believe in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. I pay taxes and I am blessed that I can afford health insurance (barely).

I did not like ANY of our candidates this year. I like how people are reacting to the result even less. Name calling and anger on both sides. I believe in peaceful protesting. I do NOT believe in indiscriminate destruction of property just because you are mad partially because it is wrong and partially because that is no way to change anyone’s mind.

I believe this country being founded by immigrants, should be willing to shelter those who are in harms way from other countries. I do not believe in a permanent free ride.

I believe that we live in an age where information is free and prolific and takes very little effort to find. It does take a little more effort than simply copying and pasting. Facebook has turned into the virtual version of what we used to call supermarket rags – those papers that you would see at the checkout with “shocking” headlines and celebrity gossip and I find it frustrating and insulting that the contents of these sketchy websites are being shared and resider as though they are reputable sources of news. Some contain tiny bits of truth amid inflammatory language and sometimes out and out lies.

My first thought was to just start unfriending people so I would see this dreck that gets me wound up. For the moment I am instead, writing and commenting and hoping that people will start to actually read what they are sharing and maybe even research where it came from; put some thought into the agenda of the original source.

I recently read a post on Facebook that began like this: : “I’m going to let all you upset Hillary supporters in on a little secret. To those of you questioning now how you will ever be able to raise a child in a world full of hate and bigotry, saying this election has provided even a further wedge in our nations divide, etc. Donald J. Trump will not come into your home, and teach your children, real values and morals, You will

This text came (as far as I can tell) from Buzzfeed which is a click bait site that makes money off adds as we all click there and read sketchy “news” articles that may or may not be plagiarized or contain pieces of truth mingled with things made up with the purpose of getting us all to click there. They concentrate on social media sites like Facebook and twitter. They play on our anger, fear, and voyeurism and they focus on making posts go viral – not out of any agenda other than to make money from ads. That’s it. They do not care about your race, gender, religion, politics or anything else about you other than your ability to click and share so someone else will click and share and so on and so on.

I will not from this moment on take another stupid Facebook quiz or do anything else to support this behavior. There are a lot of websites that do the same and much of what I have read on the internet the last few days came from those kind of sites. If you want to know more about this website here is a wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BuzzFeed

We all have the freedom and capability to post our opinions. This is mine. I recently came upon the phrase “consensus reality”. This basically means that a group of people adopt a world reality because they all see it that way. This is not inherently a bad thing. In the midst of a horrible event the reality can change because there is a consensus of hope. Unfortunately the opposite is also true. A happy or uplifting event can change because of a bad perception. If who we are is what we click and share we have created a consensus reality that we are mostly angry/whiny contentious, snowflake, bigoted, brainless, privileged, whatever. Choose your club.

Four years ago Republicans were crying that our country is ruined. Their candidate lost the election and they were certain we were going to hell in a hand basket. The same group is now laughing and calling democrats entitled whiny babies. Democrats are saying all Republicans are all privileged and bigots and have no compassion.

Politics is a very good example of consensus reality. A politician wants to create a consensus that he or she is the answer to all of our problems. It doesn’t matter that the reality is that the problems are complex and will not be solved the day after the election. They don’t care if you get angry with your neighbor for how they vote. They just want to WIN (the political equivalent of click and share).

When my kids were small we signed them up for tee ball. What a fun experience. Aside from teaching basic skills like running, throwing, catching and hitting the ball, a difficult lesson to teach them was that they should not all run to the ball. They had to be taught team work. Each person had a place on the field and they each were part of a process that if they learned to work together, allowing each person to do their part, they could attain their goal.

Remember the old game where you whispered something in someone’s ear and it was passed around a circle and at the end the last person had to ay what they were told and often it bore little resemblance to the original message? Did you trust the person who whispered to you? The person who whispered to them?

What will you whisper? What will you click and share? Who will make money off your anger?

We all need to go take tee ball lessons.

The Book

The book will soon be available on the website!

http://www.parispoetssociety.com

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The flowers were from my husband and children.

Sky Falls

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Photo credit Tommy Stone

there will be time

for sun and bright colors

for light and wind and

the work of the day

spring and summer

slip away as hints

of winter settle on the pond

fish swim a little slower

clouds hang a little lower

as night comes a little closer

we walk through the dry grass

that crackles underfoot

leaving impressions

of where we have been

but not where we are going

Exhibit

From Facebook:

Paris Poet’s Society is proud to be a part of a unique project. Several months ago they put out a call for submissions of poetry and photography. The theme was What Brings You Here. The project is complete and there will be an exhibit and book! Please join us October 28 at 7:00 P.M. for a reception at the Raven Gallery on the west side of the square in downtown Paris. We are so excited to be a part of this event! Please join us and enjoy the work of some local artists.

I have two poems in this exhibit and book. I’m very excited!

 

 

Between The Lines

read between the lines

I whispered with no voice

because that is where truth tiptoes

whistling past the graveyard

of excuse and explanation

holding itself close as a baby

taken to breast

the thought just after

the prayer has ended

the wish too fragile

to make over the candle flames

the sound in the room

after a death